Behind the failed campaign to end the ‘male gaze’

Feminists rocked the art world in the mid 1980s when the Guerrilla Girls began protesting against the overwhelming number of female nudes in art museums. But their decades-long campaign to finish off “the male gaze” came to an abrupt end on International Women’s Day 2019 after artists in Amsterdam floated “a flock of giant breasts” down the city’s famous canals.

“We’re still feminists,” mumbled one Guerrilla Girl through her mask. “We’ve just given up fighting the male gaze.”

The anonymous group of women, which regularly calculates the ratio of female nudes to male nudes in art museums, announced earlier this year that there are more male nudes today than in 1985.

Some of the Girls call that success. Others consider it a resounding failure.

“The number of female nudes available for men to gaze at in public spaces is still astonishingly high,” said another Girl who has been protesting anonymously since the beginning. “It’s like our 35-year effort has been for nothing.”

Changes in feminist culture at large haven’t helped their cause, say other members of the group.

“We thought we could end the male gaze by whipping out more tits and ass,” said the third Girl we interviewed. “Turns out that was a catastrophic error in judgement because more male artists than ever are painting female nudes.”

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